The United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO) in Sudan had begun operations in 2005, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1590 establishing the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). UNMAO was established as an integral part of UNMIS with regional offices in the North, South and Darfur.
When the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July 2011, UNMAO was discontinued, and in its place four new independent mine action support offices were created:
- the African Union/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur Ordnance Disposal Office;
- the United Nations Mine Action Service, Sudan Office;
- the United Nations Mine Action Service, Abyei Office in support of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei Mission and
- the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in South Sudan (UNMACC) – under Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1996 establishing the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
On 1 July 2012, UNMACC changed its name to UNMAS South Sudan – though it is referred to as simply UNMAS.
In accordance with the original UNMISS mandate (SCR 1996), UNMAS provided support to the Government in conducting demining activities and worked to strengthen its capacity to conduct mine action in accordance with International Mine Action Standards.
In mid-December 2013, heavy fighting erupted in Juba between armed factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar. The conflict spread throughout South Sudan, and has continued in some locations despite two ceasefire agreements. Consequently, UNMAS realigned resources and operations in response to the December crisis, as well as to the UNMISS mandate under Security Council Resolution 2155 of May 2014. In April 2016, following a long period away from Juba, 1st Vice President Riek Machar returned to the city to take up his official position, along with over thirteen hundred SPLA-IO military personnel. In the following few days after his arrival, a Transitional Government of National Unity was formed and this is currently establishing itself.
UNMAS in South Sudan, as per the Global Cluster System, serves as the Sub Cluster Lead for the Mine Action Sub Cluster that falls under the Protection Cluster. Through this forum, UNMAS South Sudan is better able to coordinate its activities in terms of demining operations and resource mobilisation.
UNMAS is also part of the United Nations Country Team and participates in all related activities.